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Failure to test for six strains of E. coli leaves gaps in nation's food safety network
By Lynne Terry, The Oregonian
May 03, 2010, 9:55AM
Two years ago, Bill Marler was contacted by the family of a 13-year-old girl killed by E. coli.
They wanted to sue, and the Seattle lawyer, an expert on food poisoning cases, wanted to help. But the strain that sickened the Ohio teen falls outside federal regulations, with neither government officials nor food manufacturers testing for it. Frustrated by the dearth of data, Marler hired a private lab to conduct a large-scale, nationwide study of ground beef, a key culprit in E. coli cases. During the past year and a half, that lab has tested 4,600 samples from a variety of manufacturers.
IEH Laboratories, north of Seattle, found that about 1 percent were tainted by six harmful E. coli strains -- including the one that killed the teen -- that are not regulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Only 5 percent of labs in the U.S. routinely test for them, said Dr. Patricia Griffin, head of food-related epidemiology at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, leaving a gap in the food safety network.
But a push is afoot to change that. The CDC has called for stepped-up testing, and on Thursday, Wal-Mart announced a beef safety program aimed at curbing these strains and other pathogens.
That decision comes amid two nationwide outbreaks.
Public health officials in Ohio, Michigan and New York are looking into an outbreak of E. coli O145 that has sickened perhaps dozens of people. In Colorado, 10 inmates were sickened by E. coli O111, the same strain that killed the 13-year-old girl.
Health officials in Ohio and Michigan are testing food samples, but so far no one knows what the culprit was.
"It is a shame that in 2010, after years and years of outbreaks, there are still lethal strains of E. coli that some parts of our government do not regulate in the food supply," Marler said.
In November, Marler filed a petition asking the USDA to declare the six strains harmful adulterants.
Last week, U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., chimed in, asking Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to do the same thing.
"The laws that are meant to keep us safe from hazardous foods are in critical need of updating," she said in a news release. "We need immediate action to keep our families safe."
The agency has named only E. coli O157:H7 a hazardous adulterant, requiring testing and recalls.
"It's by far the most common cause of illness and outbreaks," Griffin said.
E. coli O157:H7 causes 73,000 illnesses and 50 deaths every year in the United States. The six other strains -- O26, O45, O111, O121, O145, O103 -- are considered less pervasive, sickening an estimated 37,000 people a year and killing nearly 30. But they could be causing more illnesses that labs don't detect because they're not testing for them.
The USDA is looking at regulating the additional strains. "It was granted an expedited review," said Brian Mabry, spokesman for USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service.
As part of President Barack Obama's emphasis on food safety, Vilsack has ordered a complete review of the USDA's food safety regulations, said Caleb Weaver, the agency's chief spokesman.
"We will not rest until we have eliminated food-borne hospitalizations and deaths," Weaver said. There are hundreds of strains of E. coli that live in the intestines of healthy cattle and other animals. Most do not hurt humans. What makes O157 -- and the six strains singled out by the CDC -- a problem is that they produce Shiga toxin, which can cause kidney failure.
"We now know a lot about E. coli O157," said William Keene, senior epidemiologist at the state Public Health Division.
Its first big national appearance was in Oregon and then Michigan in 1982 when at least 47 people were sickened by tainted McDonalds' hamburgers.
Then in 1993, 732 people in California, Washington, Idaho and Nevada got sick and four children died after eating undercooked Jack-in-the-Box hamburgers contaminated with O157:H7.
That prompted the USDA to declare the strain a hazardous adulterant.
In his campaign to push for more testing, Marler said Wal-Mart's beef safety plan, which goes into effect starting June 2011, is a step in the right direction.
"I commend them for doing that," Marler said. "I hope that other retailers will follow suit."

Investigators Slow to Name E. coli Strain source
by Dan Flynn | May 03, 2010
State and federal officials investigating a multistate non-O157 E. coli outbreak went into the weekend without naming either the exact strain or food source involved.
On background, food safety experts say the likely strain involved is E. coli O145 and the investigation into the food source is said to be focused on a specific distribution company. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta has yet to issue a report on the ongoing investigation.|
The outbreak appears to have claimed victims in three states, New York, Ohio, and Michigan. Public health officials in those states say laboratory work has confirmed 15 cases with another 32 suspected.
Ohio's E. coli cases are centered in Columbus. Washtenaw County, which includes Ann Arbor, is getting most of the Michigan cases. Daemen College in Buffalo, NY is the third E. coli hotspot.
Reports on food testing by the states is not shedding much light on the outbreak, except to rule things out. None of the food samples tested by Michigan were contaminated with E. coli. Officials were not surprised because the samples were collected after people developed symptoms of infection.
Ohio declined to say what food samples were being tested and said it would not do so unless something is connected to the outbreak. Either way, results were not available.
Non-O157 strains of E. coli are not defined as adulterants by the federal government even though they can cause sickness and death.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) has been petitioned by victims of non-O157 outbreaks to declare those strains as adulterants if found in meat and poultry, but has not yet taken any action.
The non-O157 E. coli victims are represented in the petition by Marler Clark, the food safety law firm based in Seattle. Retail giant Walmart this week announced it would begin requiring its meat suppliers to test for non-O157 strains of E. coli just as it already does for O157:H7 E. coli, and will reject lots that test positive.

CDC to become involved in E. coli outbreak in Ohio, Michigan, and New York
Posted on May 1, 2010 by Drew Falkenstein
Misti Crane of the Columbus Dispatch, who keeps us all up-to-speed on the E. coli O145 outbreak in Ohio, Michigan, and New York, reported early this morning that the CDC is headed to Columbus. Their purpose: to help identify the food item that has caused at least 47 people to become infected by E. coli O145 by conducting what is known as a case-control study--i.e. comparing the foods that suspected victims ate to the foods that people who did not get sick ate.
A four-member team from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta is expected to arrive Sunday to begin a study that might help solve the mystery of what made the people sick, Ohio Department of Health spokeswoman Jen House said.
"There are similar investigations going on in other states," she said.
City, state and federal experts will conduct the study, in which they will compare people who were sickened with others who ate at the same places and did not get sick, said Columbus Health Commissioner Dr. Teresa Long.
That work could help pinpoint what made people sick, even if laboratory tests of food samples don't reveal anything.
Even when there are positive food samples - as was the case in 2008 with an outbreak involving ground beef - this type of study can be helpful, said Dr. Mysheika LeMaile-Williams, the city's medical director.
"It makes for strong evidence to say, 'This is the vehicle that is getting people sick.'"
Studies could be completed within days, if all goes well, Long said.

William Marler, Food Safety Lawyer - "It is well past time for the USDA to declare that all shiga-toxin producing strains of E. coli are adulterants and ban them from our food supply."
Posted on April 29, 2010 by Bill Marler
¡°It is a shame that, in 2010, after years and years of outbreaks, there are still lethal strains of E. coli that some parts of our government do not regulate in the food supply. E. coli O157:H7 has been considered an adulterant in food since 1994 by USDA/FSIS, but non?O157 strains, which can be just as devastating, are not,¡± says food safety lawyer, William Marler.
As a result, non-O157 strains of E. coli are not regulated or even regularly tested for in our meat supply. Currently, there are two separate outbreaks emerging involving the non-O157 strains E. coli O1111 and E. coli O145. More than 50 people in these two outbreaks have fallen ill since April 7th although neither has yet been linked to a specific food product.
Like their notorious counterpart E. coli O157:H7, E. coli serogroups O26, O111, O145, and others have truly become a major public health problem. Annually in the United States they account for 37,000 illnesses and 30 deaths (Mead et al., 1999; Tozzi et al., 2003; Sonntag et al., 2004). Strains of E. coli O145 isolated from patients with sporadic illness ranked among the top six non-O157 serogroups submitted to the CDC by 43 state public health laboratories between 1983 and 2002 (Brooks et al., 2005). In a recent study that my law firm commissioned to discover the prevalence of non-O157 E. coli in retail hamburger samples, we found that approximately 1.9% of the 1216 ground beef samples tested were positive. And, this was ground beef sitting on store shelves, ready to be purchased and consumed. Serotypes included O26 (n=6), O103 (n=7), O113 (n=1), O121 (n=6) and O145 (n=3) (Samadpour, Beskhlebnaya and Marler (2009). This study is ongoing and final report on the 5,000 samples will be published this summer.
In October of 2009, Marler Clark filed a Petition with the USDA/FSIS for an Interpretive Rule Declaring all enterohemorrhagic Shiga Toxin-producing serotypes of Escherichia coli (E. coli), Including Non-O157 Serotypes, to be Adulterants Within the Meaning of 21 U.S.C. ¡× 601(m)(1). FSIS has responded, but has only said that they are considering the petition. In addition to our Petition, recently the consumer advocacy group Safe Tables Our Priority (STOP) published a Press Release urging FSIS to declare "disease-causing E. coli's other than O157:H7 as adulterants in beef and begin testing for them." A few days ago, New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand wrote to USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack, urging him ¡°to respond formally to two petitions to the USDA¡¯s Food Safety Inspection Services: 1) Petition for an Interpretive Rule Declaring all enterohemorrhagic Shiga Toxin-producing Serotypes of Escherichia coli (E. coli), including Non-O157 Serotypes, to be Adulterants Within the Meaning of 21 U.S.C. ¡× 601(m)(1) - Petition #09-03; and, 2) S.T.O.P.-Safe Tables Our Priority¡¯s Call to Action and Public Petition.¡±
¡°It is well past time for the USDA to declare that all shiga-toxin producing strains of E. coli are adulterants and ban them from our food supply, ¡° added Marler
William Marler and Marler Clark have represented thousands of victims of E. coli and other foodborne illness outbreaks since 1993. Mr. Marler has recovered in excess of $500 million on behalf of victims of E. coli outbreaks beginning with the Jack-in-the-Box outbreak of 1993. Mr. Marler also manages the not for profit Outbreak Inc., where he speaks frequently of food safety issues.

NOAA Closes Gulf Spill Area To Fishing
by Dan Flynn | May 03, 2010
FROM THE GULF OF MEXICO --Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal was first to start closing down the Gulf seafood industry when he put select fishing areas and oyster harvesting beds off limits to both recreational and commercial takings last Friday in response to the BP oil spill.
On Sunday, Commerce Secretary Gary Locke followed the Governor with an announcement by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) was restricting fishing in all Gulf of Mexico waters surrounding the growing oil slick.
Seafood safety concerns brought the closure of fishing in Louisiana's Zone 1, excluding the coastal boundaries of Lake Borgne, Lake Pontchartrain, and Lake Maurapas. It also brought the closures of shellfish area 2 through 7 east of the Mississippi.
On Sunday--against a background of dark skies, strong winds, and high waves---the federal government stepped in to immediately make the entire Gulf from Louisiana state waters near New Orleans to Pensacola Bay to close down fishing for at least the next ten days.
Jane Lubchenco, NOAA administrator, in a statement said the agency was attempting to balance "economic and health concerns" and limited the closure area to Gulf waters affected by the oil.
"The precautionary closure of the federal waters off the coast of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and part of Florida is a necessary action to insure the citizens of the United States and abroad that our seafood will maintain the highest level of quality we expect from the Gulf of Mexico, said Harlon Pearce. "As chairman of the Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board, I applaud Dr. Lubchenco's decision to insure everyone that all seafood in the Gulf is of the highest quality and is safe to eat."
"We Support NOAA's precautionary closure of the affected area so that the American consumer has confidence that the seafood they eat is safe," added Ewell Smith, executive director of the Louisiana Seafood Board. "It is also very important to underscore the fact that this closure is only the affected area of the Gulf of Mexico, not the entire Gulf. The state waters of Louisiana West of the Mississippi River are still open and the seafood coming from that area is safe. That portion of waters represents about 77% of Louisiana seafood production of a 2.4 billion dollar economic impact to the state."
"We stand with America's fishermen, their families and businesses in impacted coastal communities during this very challenging time," Locke said.
Lubchenco said there was no health risk from seafood currently in the market.
State and federal officials said the closures were to make sure oil-tainted fish; shrimp and crab are not caught and consumed.
Long lists of fish caught in the Gulf are now off-limits due to the federal restrictions. Included are: Amberjacks, Blue Runner, Bluefish, Cobia, Crevalle Jack, Croaker, Dolphinfish, Black Drum, Red Drum, Flounders, Gag Grouper, Red Grouper, Scamp Grouper, Kingfishes, Ladyfish, King Macherel, Spanish Mackerel, Pigfish, Pinfish, Florida Pompano, Red Porgy, Sailfish, Sand and Silver Seatrouts, Spotted Seatrout, Shark, Sheepshead, Silver Perch, Gray Snapper, Lane Snapper, Red Snapper, Vermillion Snapper, Atlantic Spadefish, Spot, Tarpon, Tomtate, Gray Triggerfish, Tripletail, Black and Yellowfin Tuna, Little Tunny, and Wahoo.
While all those fish may be out there, most of the Gulf's fishing boats were Sunday night waiting for the weather to clear so they can continue fighting the oil slick before more it moves toward the beaches. The NOAA oil trajectory map is available on the agency's Website.

Why Walmart has it right
Safety Zone By: James Marsden

I should start by saying that I do not work for Walmart as a consultant, advisor or in any other way. It is not my place to defend the company or its policies. However, I believe that last week Walmart took a courageous position to improve food safety for its customers ? one that will eventually improve food safety for all consumers.
What they are requiring
The action taken by Walmart was to require that its beef suppliers meet performance standards designed to reduce the risk of pathogen contamination. Specifically, Walmart will require its beef slaughter suppliers to implement an approved intervention or a combination of interventions between post-hide removal and final trim production that will consistently produce, at a minimum, an initial cumulative 3-log reduction of enteric pathogens by June 2011. Thereafter, they are requesting a further reduction goal to achieve a total cumulative 5-log reduction between post-hide removal and final trim production by June 2012. All intervention steps must be scientifically validated. In addition, interventions must not require a label declaration or have a negative effect on product quality and shelf life and must be accepted by consumers.
For ground beef suppliers that are not vertically integrated and do not have slaughter house control, Walmart will require an approved intervention or a combination of interventions that will consistently produce, at a minimum, a 2-log reduction of enteric pathogens on raw trim used for grinding. Again, the intervention process or intervention steps must be scientifically validated. Processing suppliers must be in compliance with this new process control standard by June 2011.
Why I agree
The move was supported by at least one major meatpacker - Tyson Fresh Meat Co., as well as consumer groups and academicians, including myself. News reports about the Beef Safety initiative, including those posted on Meatingplace elicited comments that expressed skepticism and doubt about Walmart's motives and the need for new requirements. Here are my thoughts on the subject:
1. The performance standards are designed to assure that all beef slaughter plants and processing plants utilize effective, validated interventions. Most of Walmart's suppliers and most plants in the U.S. already have these interventions in place. I agree with Jim Dickson at Iowa State University who believes that the initiative is more about proving efficacy than it is about implementing new interventions. (See: Meatingplace story on this.)
2. Before making the decision to implement the new performance standards, Walmart determined that suppliers that already have the required interventions in place are price competitive.
3. Unfortunately, there are still beef slaughter plants and processors that either have not implemented effective interventions, or do not have supporting documentation to show that they are effective. Walmart is allowing more than a year for these companies to implement effective, validated interventions.
4. In the manufacture of ground beef, product from multiple processors is often co-mingled. As a result, there may be an increased risk of contamination when beef from plants with inadequate interventions is utilized.
5. Retailers like Walmart have no way of knowing if the beef they purchase for their customers was processed using effective interventions or not. When foodborne illness cases and recalls occur, they are still held accountable. In order to reduce the risk of these occurrences, retailers have the right to insist that their suppliers use the most effective interventions available and scientifically document their effectiveness in controlling pathogens like E. coli O157:H7 and Salmonella.
6. It is worth noting that Walmart's requirement for scientific validation of interventions is consistent with the in-plant validation requirements that were recently proposed by USDA-FSIS.
The bottom line is that it is time for all beef slaughter and processing plants to implement food safety systems for controlling E. coli O157:H7 and Salmonella.
Most have already done so and as a result, beef products are safer now than at any time in history. If effective systems were universally applied, the incidence of pathogen contamination and foodborne disease cases and outbreaks associated with beef products could be further reduced.
These are the real objectives of the Walmart Beef Safety initiative. Walmart deserves a lot of credit for taking a position that is long overdue.

NOAA to Sniff Out Oil-Tainted Seafood
by Helena Bottemiller | May 05, 2010
NEW ORLEANS--Federal officials plan to keep petroleum-tainted fish off of our plates by using two proven methods: advanced chemical testing and their sense of smell.
"The sensory tests tend to be more sensitive than the chemical," Steven Wilson, chief quality officer for the seafood inspection program at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), told Food Safety News in an interview yesterday.
"The nose is very sensitive," says Wilson, who explains that normally a combination of chemical and sensory testing--which includes tasting the samples--is used to determine whether seafood is fit for human consumption.
For the chemical analysis, NOAA will send samples of seafood to expert labs in Seattle, Washington--labs which have experience testing for petroleum in seafood.
Samples will also be sent to NOAA's state-of-the-art sensory testing lab at Gloucestor, Massachusetts, which Wilson notes gives experts ideal conditions for testing. "It has positive air flow, it's designed specifically for us to be able to perform sensory analysis."
"There's no point in being on the dock," said Wilson. "It's not that kind of sensory. You need to check the shell of the crab, you need to check the meat, you need to check various locations that might be contaminated."
With the oil spill nowhere near contained, and 6,800 square miles of the Gulf of Mexico closed to any kind of fishing, it remains unclear when NOAA's seafood inspection program will begin testing fish for contamination.
Before the agency begins its program, two things have to happen. First, the spill has to be contained, and second, the ocean water "where the seafood is living and growing and breathing" has to clear a quality test.
"There's no point in testing product that's swimming around in oil," he said.

More Salmonella Cases Tied to Oregon Restaurant
Date Published: Wednesday, May 5th, 2010
Oregon¡¯s Douglas County Health officials announced there are 17 confirmed cases of Salmonella poisoning linked to the Los Dos Amigos restaurant, located in Roseburg, said KPIC. The illnesses appear to have occurred from April 9-17, added KPIC.Salmonella, the most prevalent food borne pathogen in this country, is an organism that can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children, frail or elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems. Infection with Salmonella can result in the organism getting into the bloodstream and producing more severe illnesses such as arterial infections (i.e., infected aneurysms), endocarditis, and arthritis.Dawnelle Marshall of the Public Health Division of the Douglas County Health Department said that the source of the outbreak remains unknown and that interviews continue with patrons of the restaurant who visited the establishment during the outbreak period in order to determine the outbreak¡¯s timeline and origin, wrote KPIC.¡°We¡¯ve not been able to pinpoint the source, whether that is a food item, whether there is cross-contamination. We have not been able to do that, but we do have sampling that is pending, and those results should be in later this week,¡± said Marshall. Los Dos Amigos is cooperating in the investigation, added Marshall.¡°They¡¯re taking suggestions, they¡¯re sharing information about how they process food, and what they do with foods. So until we know what that source is, it¡¯s hard to evaluate what that potential cause can be,¡± said Marshall, quoted KPIC.
Marshall also said that some people have fallen very ill with dehydration that required intravenous fluids, reported KPIC.
Salmonella poisoning can also lead to Reiter¡¯s Syndrome, a difficult-to-treat reactive arthritis characterized by severe joint pain, irritation of the eyes, and painful urination. Some Salmonella bacteria are antibiotic resistant, largely due to the use of antibiotics to promote the growth of feed animals.
We recently wrote that a report from the Produce Safety Project found that food borne illnesses are costing the United States $152 billion annually with one-quarter?$39 billion?the result of food borne illnesses associated with fresh, canned, and processed produce. According to the federal government, 76 million people each year come down with some form of food poisoning; hundreds of thousands are hospitalized and about 5,000 die.

Salmonella linked to salami and pepper: CDC update
Posted on May 5, 2010 by Drew Falkenstein
Statistics about thesalmonella montevideo and senftenberg outbreak linked to salami and pepper were recently updated. According to the CDC, 272 people were sickened by Salmonella montevideo from since July 2009 after consuming salami that was manufactured using salmonella-contaminated red and black pepper. The salami was manufactured and sold by a Rhode Island company called Daniele Inc. The pepper (both black and red), which has long been known to have been the original source of contamination, was imported and sold by two companies: Wholesome Spice Company and Mincing Oversease Spice Company.
Originally, Rhode Island health officials discovered that it was the pepper, rather than the meat itself, that was originally contaminated. The CDC states:
Testing by the Rhode Island Department of Public Health found the outbreak strain of Salmonella Montevideo in samples of black and red pepper intended for use in the production of Italian-style meats at Daniele International Inc. Since then, several recalls have been issued.
Interestingly, Salmonella senftenberg illnesses that occurred as a result of consuming the contaminated product are not counted in the CDC's official case count. Why I do not know. Packages from consumer households tested positive for both Salmonella Montevideo and Senftenberg, which seems to be the smoking gun. Possibly the DNA fingerprint of the senftenberg strains are different, making it more difficult to include them as part of the outbreak.
Another concern is that the contaminated pepper is still out there. The CDC believes that it might be, and may pose an ongoing health risk to consumers. The most recent confirmed illness in the outbreak occurred on April 14, 2010, long after the peak of illness in the outbreak, which was November 2009. With regard to the ongoing threat to public health, the CDC states:
The numbers of new cases have declined substantially since the peak in November 2009, but some of the recalled products have long shelf-lives and could cause illness if consumed. Consumers should avoid eating recalled products.
The outbreak has spawned multiple lawsuits.

Slicers and belts prove high risk for Listeria contamination, study
By Jane Byrne , 04-May-2010
Bread feeding machines, slicers, conveyor belts and water hoses are the areas most at risk for contamination by L. monocytogenes and continuous monitoring of plant equipment and environment can provide an early warning system for processors, finds a new study on a sandwich plant.
The researchers, in a study published in Food Control said that they investigated the occurrence and genetic diversity of L. monocytogenes in a Swiss sandwich-producing plant over a 12-month period, with the goal of evaluating the potential persistence of L. monocytogenes there in order to identify possible contamination sources.
L. monocytogenes as a food-borne pathogen has significant public health and economic impacts with manufacturers of ready-to-eat foods required, under EU regulation, to examine the processing environment for microbe as part of their hazard analysis critical control point (HACCP) approach and sampling schemes.
The study
The research team, from the Institute of Food Safety and Hygiene in Zurich, said they first evaluated the basic situation and the potential persistence of L. monocytogenes strains in the plant, and then evaluated the effect of revised cleaning and disinfection procedures with a focus on identified problem areas.
Sampling, they said, was performed twice a week and comprised about 80 samples per visit, reported the team.
The team said they took 1,192 samples from the equipment of the sandwich processing lines such as slicers, knives, or conveyor belts, as well as 307 samples from the environment including drains, walls, or floors.
Samples totalling 217 were taken, they added, from ready to-eat ingredients pre-handled in the plant such as salmon, ham, or salami sliced.
Additionally, 529 samples from the equipment and environment were obtained after cleaning and disinfection, said the researchers.
Strain findings
L. monocytogenes were detected by culture after enrichment in 70 (3.5 per cent) of 2,028 environmental swabs and 16 (7.4 per cent) of 217 samples from ingredients and sandwiches.
Of the 86 L. monocytogenes strains, 93 per cent belonged to serotype 1/2a and genetic lineage II. Rep PCR and PFGE analysis yielded each six profiles, found the authors.
Tainted machinery
Sixty-seven (77.9 per cent) strains belonged to only one genotype, which was repeatedly found on/in slicers, conveyor belts, tables, a bread-feeding machine, spattles, air blow-guns, salmon, and egg sandwiches, said the authors.
They said that strains of this genotype persisted for more than nine months in the processing environment, in particular on slicers and conveyor belts.
The authors noted that due to their construction, slicers or conveyor belts are often difficult to clean and maintain adequately and therefore constitute probable contamination sources for food products.
Moreover, they claim air blow-guns and water hoses testing repeatedly positive for strains of certain genotypes might indirectly contribute to the contamination of food products by the hands of employees.
Repeated cleaning
Based on the data from the first sampling phase, they said, cleaning and disinfection procedures of the plant were revised with a main focus on identified problem areas, including enhanced supervision by the quality assurance management.
The second sampling phase evaluated the effect of the revised cleaning and disinfection schemes, and also included the examination of additional difficult to clean areas of the processing environment, added the authors.
They said that after revision of the cleaning and disinfection procedures, L. monocytogenes were no longer found on slicers, conveyor belts, or in products but were still detected sporadically in environmental samples such as water hoses. The intensified examination, said the team, also identified the inside of a bread-feeding machine as a further problem area.
The four L. monocytogenes strains from the bread-feeding machine all belonged to the predominant genotype (Rep PCR profile a, PFGE profile A) and were obtained during the first two visits but after revision of the cleaning and disinfection scheme of this machine, Listeria were no longer found, reported the researchers.
Source: Food Control
Published online ahead of print
Title: Phenotypic and molecular typing of Listeria monocytogenes isolated from the processing environment and products of a sandwich-producing plant
Authors: S. Blatter, N. Giezendanner, R. Stephan, C. Zweifel

Antimicrobial resistance a growing threat: study, May 6, 2010
by Bryan Salvage
DEERFIELD, ILL. Antimicrobial resistance has emerged as a global health problem and is a major impediment in managing childhood infectious diseases, according to a new study published in the May issue of the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene. Direct and indirect exposure of young children to antibiotics through medical and agricultural usage can increase their risk for carriage of resistant E. coli.
E. coli is estimated to cause disease in hundreds of thousands of people around the world each year, including approximately 70,000 Americans. E. coli can be transmitted from animals and humans through several sources, the most common being contaminated food and water. While most E. coli are harmless and are carried as a normal part of the human intestinal flora, such commensal bacteria might serve as an important reservoir of resistance that can be transmitted to disease-causing E. coli and other bacterial species.
Conducted by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, the study revealed several factors affecting antibiotic-resistant E. coli carriage in young children in Peru. By analyzing E. coli samples from more than 500 children, the researchers were able to identify individual, household and community factors influencing carriage of the resistant bacteria. The study was conducted in 16 purposively selected zones in four regions in Peru, including peri-urban slums in Lima and towns and villages in Cajamarca in the Sierra Mountains, Iquitos in the Amazon rain forest and Chincha on the coast.
¡°This study is unique in having evaluated a number of risk factors at multiple levels in very young children for carrying antibiotic-resistant E. coli bacteria,¡± said Dr. Henry D. Kalter, lead study investigator, associate, Department of International Health, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. ¡°By examining all these factors, we were able to reach a more comprehensive understanding of how resistant E. coli is transmitted in the developing world. In analyzing the study results, we learned that children¡¯s use of antibiotics, as well as their family members¡¯ use, increased their risk for carrying resistant E. coli, and that residing in an area where a greater proportion of households served home-raised chickens protected against resistance.
¡°This protective effect can be understood in light of the fact that the home-raised chickens carried significantly lower levels of resistant E. coli than did the market chickens, which in Peru are intensively raised with antibiotics,¡± he added. ¡°The strength of this community level variable suggests that this is where the transmission of resistance resulting from agricultural antibiotics use was taking place.¡±
In poor communities in developing countries such as Peru, with inadequate protection of excreta and water, contamination of the environment with antibiotic-resistant bacteria appeared to play at least as great a role in children¡¯s carriage of resistant E. coli as did the children¡¯s own antibiotics use.
¡°This study is important in a number of respects" said Edward T. Ryan, M.D., president, American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene (A.S.T.M.H.). "It improves our understanding of the growing global public health threat of antibiotic resistant organisms and underscores the critical role that antibiotic use in animals plays in contributing to this threat. The vast majority of the tons and tons of antibiotics ingested each year on this planet are administered to livestock and animals. This study clearly shows that such use comes with a very real cost to human health.¡±
¡°There¡¯s no doubt that antimicrobial resistance is a growing threat to human health,¡± Dr. Christine Hoang, an assistant director in the Scientific Activities division of the American Veterinary Medical Association, told ¡°In fact, the study indicates that the children¡¯s and the household members¡¯ recent antibiotic use were the two main risk factors for children three years old and younger carrying antimicrobial resistant E. coli.
¡°Although this study is relatively unique in that it examined the influence of individual, household and community-scale risk factors and potential associations, further study is needed prior to drawing any definitive conclusions,¡± she concluded.

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